The first round of the NBA playoffs has certainly had its share of incidents involving unruly fan behavior. From Washington’s Russell Westbrook having popcorn dumped on him in Philadelphia to Atlanta’s Trae Young being spit on in New York to three fans in Utah being banned after racist remarks to the father of Memphis point guard Ja Morant.
Then on Sunday night in Boston, a fan threw a water bottle at Brooklyn’s Kyrie Irving as the former Celtic was heading to the locker room following the Nets’ 141-126 win.
Before Monday’s 122-114 loss to the Washington Wizards in Game 4 at Capital One Arena — which featured a fan being tackled by security on the court in the third quarter — 76ers coach Doc Rivers was asked what he thought about these recent incidents.
“It is not anything that should happen, I don’t have a lot to say about it, I think enough has been said,” Rivers said. “Fans are important for our game, but at the end of the day, there is a respect, there is a humanity, we’ve got to treat each other with respect. It’s all right to cheer, boo, and do all that, but you start throwing bottles, spitting, [throwing] popcorn, those things just can’t happen. You know we know that, though, we already know that.”
During Monday’s game another incident occurred when a fan ran on the court in the third quarter, touched the rim and then was tackled by a police officer.
“It’s actually embarrassing for all those fans that do that,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said after the game. “The NBA has great fans. I played in Philadelphia, they have great fans, and they had one knucklehead that decided to throw popcorn. Boston has great fans. They had one knucklehead who decided to throw a water bottle. ... New York has great fans, one knucklehead decided to spit on somebody. We have great fans, one knucklehead tried to come into the arena, it’s unacceptable. And it’s not good.”
Brooks praised the security at the arena.
“I’m glad our building and our security, that was a great tackle,” Brooks said. “I don’t know if the football club needs it, but that was great, I loved that. Sometimes I wish we can set screens like that, but to me that was first class in our building, I give these guys a lot of credit because they they protect the fans and they protect our players. I love that...”
Just what Maxey expected
As a rookie first-round pick of the 76ers, Tyrese Maxey is taking in his first postseason and enjoying the experience. He anticipated what it would be like and hasn’t been too far off in his projections.
“I think it is pretty much exactly what I expected,” Maxey said following Monday morning’s shootaround. “We are blessed to have fans come back in the building and it is good to see the crowds, the home crowd at Wells Fargo and hostile fans here at the Wizards arena.”
The Sixers were 3-0 against the Wizards in the regular season, but the postseason has brought a new level of familiarity.
“It’s crazy playing the same opponent over and over and over again,” said Maxey, who had a playoff career high of 15 points in Monday’s loss.
Everybody says that things speed up in the playoffs, something that didn’t take Maxey long to discover.
“I think my very first game I kind of realized you have think a little bit quicker, you have to find the reads faster, guys are playing harder, there is a lot on the line,” Maxey said. “You got to be sharp, and that is one thing coaches have been on us all year, so they have done a good job of preparing us for the playoffs.”
The Wizards had their third lineup change in the four games when Daniel Gafford replaced Alex Len as the starting center.
Gafford, a 2019 second-round pick of Chicago who was acquired by Washington at the March 25 trade deadline, averaged 13 points and 6.0 rebounds in 20.8 minutes in the first three games.
“His speed, his ability to catch lobs above the rim, he is a threat at the basket,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said before the game in explaining the move.
This was something that Rivers and his staff anticipated.
“We talked about it this morning that we wouldn’t be surprised if we saw him starting,” Rivers said. “...His speed down the floor, that is something we absolutely talked about.”
Gafford made a difference on both ends of the court with 12 points, 4 rebounds, and 5 blocked shots.